The Alps contain some of Switzerland's most dramatic landscapes, in a country already well endowed with spectacular scenery and fabulous alpine vistas. Situated at the heart of the Alps, Switzerland shares the mountain range with France, Italy and Austria, and provides winter and summer time enjoyment for skiers, snowboarders, walkers and climbers.
Swiss Alps © Artur Staszewski
Switzerland has the distinction of being home to the first ever ski resort, and since then, over 200 first-class resorts have attracted thousands of Swiss and international downhill and cross-country skiers and snowboarders. The tradition of skiing goes back two centuries. Today, with more than 1,700 mountain railways and ski lifts, renowned ski schools and instructors, the best ski equipment in the world, and outstanding slopes and facilities catering for all levels of ability, it fully deserves its moniker of 'Europe's winter playground'.
Crans-Montana © Sebastian Galiano
Crans-MontanaClaiming to occupy the sunniest plateau in the Swiss Alps, the twin villages of Crans and Montana are perched 4920 feet (1,500m) above the Rhone Valley. Crans-Montana provides the best of both a mountain village and modern Swiss ski resort, offering an Alpine shopping paradise, and easy access to nearby attractions like the museums of Sierra, the underground lake near St-Léonard, and the glacier at Plaine Morte. The resort has a glitzy reputation and enjoys a fashionable nightlife. Crans-Montana offers many summer activities, including water skiing, swimming, mountain climbing, hiking, and a championship golf course.
Grindelwald © Hakim Valiton
GrindelwaldThe holiday destination of Grindelwald is a picturesque, traditional mountain settlement at the foot of the Eiger Mountain, surrounded by spectacular alpine landscapes. Popular as both a summer and winter holiday spot, it offers miles of slopes and hiking trails across the Alps, and for non-skiers there are a huge variety of winter activities, from tobogganing to groomed winter hiking tracks. For skiers there are three distinct areas to choose from, with slopes for beginners, intermediates and the challenges of the Eiger glacier for the experienced; as well as lift links to Wengen and Mürren, making this one of the best holiday resorts from which to explore the Jungfrau region.
Skiing in Grindelwald is best suited to intermediates, and there are plenty of long, gentle runs to keep them busy. There are plenty of options for true beginners as well at the Bodmi Nursery slopes. While advanced skiers won't find much, Grindelwald boasts the famous Lauberhorn World Cup downhill run, as well as the near-vertical Kanonenrohr. The resort is part of the Jungfrau region, and shares mountain space with Wengen. There are roughly 12 miles (20km) of cross-country tracks.
Leysin © Kosala Bandara
LeysinLeysin has a reputation as one of the most family-friendly ski resorts in Switzerland, offering children's activities year-round at more affordable rates than its fashionable neighbours in the Rhone Valley. There are a number of off-piste diversions, including excursions to Lake Geneva, the museums and castles in Aigle, and the igloos in Teepee Village. The mountain provides a spectacular setting for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and rock climbing in summer. There are a number of good restaurants, including the glass revolving Le Kuklos, which has a panoramic view of the region, and a few bars in town. While the village is removed from the larger skiing areas, skiing in Leysin's 37 miles (60km) of pistes provides challenges ranging from nursery areas to two black runs for experts, and 24 miles (39km) of cross country trails. There is a ski school that arranges heli-skiing trips, and the glacier at Les Diablerets is included in the ski pass. Leysin is a major snowboarding destination, with a snowboard park and half pipe that have hosted many professional competitions.
Veysonnaz © Jan-Willem Boot
VeysonnazWith panoramic views of the Rhone Valley, Veysonnaz forms a part of the Four Valleys ski area together with Nandez, Verbier, Thyon and La Tzoumaz. A more affordable alternative to fashionable resorts like Verbier, the pretty town of Veysonnaz has managed to retain its Alpine charm with traditional architecture and events like the June Cow Processions. There are a range of activities for non-skiers in both summer and winter, including attractions like the pyramids of Euseigne and the Grande Dixence dam. The town itself has a number of restaurants and bars, as well as a few shops and a recreation centre.
The Four Valleys ski area has over 250 miles (400km) of runs, which provide ample off piste opportunities for experts, including the Tortin snow bowl. There are also runs for intermediates and beginners, and the runs in general range from 1,640 feet (500m) to 9,842 feet (3,000m) in elevation, though heli-skiing is available to the Pigne d'Arolla at 12,467 feet (3,800m). The 1936 Neypark at La Choux is a haven for snowboarding in Veysonnaz, featuring a skate-style pyramid and a good selection of rails.